Loma Prieta Winery: America’s Largest Pinotage Producer
Well-deserving of the descriptor “boutique,” Loma Prieta makes fewer than 3k cases yearly, yet has single handedly become the largest producer of Pinotage in North America. Set at 2600 feet on Loma Prieta Way off the Summit Road exit of Highway 17, Loma Prieta is named for the flat-topped mountain that towers to the southeast. It is here, in the shadow of this iconic peak known for being the epicenter of the 1989 earthquake that bears its name, that you will find one of the most beautiful wineries in all of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Views are mesmerizing in every direction, and you can see the entire Monterey Peninsula and watch waves crashing on the Santa Cruz coastline. It’s the only regulation bocce course in the mountains where you might spot whales.
From Pinot to Pinotage
Loma Prieta owner, attorney Paul Kemp, began producing Gold medal Pinots right from the very beginning of the winery which he founded with his wife, Amy, in 2003. Sourcing from both the Estate vineyard and from Saveria Vineyard in Corralitos, every vintage of Pinot Noir was a winner. Then, Paul became besotted with Pinotage after discovering it in a Lodi vineyard where he was sourcing Viognier. He quickly began acquiring as much fruit as he could find, from nearly every available acre in California. So taken was he by this grape, a hybrid developed in South Africa in the 1930s by crossing Pinot Noir with Cinsault (a big, thick-skinned variety from the Southern Rhone), that he tore out his estate Merlot and Cabernet to plant Pinotage. Subsequently, he grafted over all of his estate Pinot Noir to the new flame. Now, there are a whopping 58 acres of Pinotage in all of California. Compare that to nearly 80k of Cabernet Sauvignon, and you get the picture.
There are very few wineries worldwide making Pinotage, the signature grape of South Africa, where more acres of it exist than anywhere on the planet. Here in California, Loma Prieta makes more Pinotage than any other single winery, and is the only one to be making single vineyard designates from the grape.
At present, Kemp is sourcing Pinotage from several vineyards, including Amorosa, Karma and Sierra Ridge, in addition to the estate vineyard. Every vintage of Pinotage has been Golden for the winery: they have earned medals for every Pinotage they’ve ever entered in every wine competition, including a Platinum for the 2010 Amorosa Pinotage at the 2012 Monterey Wine Competition.
Loma Prieta also produces award-winning Pinot Noir from the Santa Cruz Mountains, as well as Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet and Petite Sirah. The 2010 Petite Sirah was chosen Best Red of Show at the 2013 Florida International Wine Competition. Visit the winery every weekend from noon til 5pm, and be prepared to be blown away by the scenery, the views and the wines.